Guns are some of the best methods of self-defense in the world. From in the home to the U.S. Military, if you're looking to protect yourself, you're going to want to look at more than the most popular guns. You want reliable firearms and sturdy polymer. Maybe you're just looking to see what you can learn about the firearms industry. This can be a confusing hobby to learn about when you're brand new. Maybe something the National Rifle Association said got you thinking about picking up a Remington of your own, or maybe you just think machine guns look cool in movies.
We're going to help walk you through some of the best gun brands out there right now. You'll learn more about why folks go wild for Austrian guns, you'll see why American firearms are some of the most reliable tools to bring to the range. You'll leave knowing your long guns from your grenade launchers, and if you're not new to this, maybe you'll leave with some appreciation of Italy and it's ironworking history or new love for the classic Glock 17.
1. Glock Ges.m.b.H.
Glock is easily the most recognizable gun manufacturer on the planet. They’re the Kleenex of the gun world. The name is thrown around so often that you’d think Glock meant “pistol” if you didn’t know any better.
The pistols that Glock produces are straightforward, sturdy, and dependable. They’re the kind of gun you’d reach for when the chips are down, or if you just don’t like fussing with extra features. That durability and sturdy build quality makes Glock the brand that the militaries and law enforcement all around the world.
They’re known for simplifying their guns. The Glock is the gun stripped down to its most effective parts. They keep their parts interchangeable and sturdy. The steel components are treated with “Tenifer” making them harder and resistant to corrosion and normal wear and tear. If you take care of these guns they’ll last you basically forever. They’re excellent for learning the basics of gunsmithy, and they’re the kind of guns you’ll love learning inside and out.
Though their name is synonymous with firearms, they don’t just crank out firearms. They make field and survival knives as well as entrenchment tools making them a one-stop-shop for armed forces that find themselves out in the wild often.
2. Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson made themselves known right out of the gate with their Smith & Wesson Model 1. The Model 1 was the first revolver to make use of rimfire cartridges instead of loose powder propelling musket balls and percussion caps. It’s no exaggeration to say they changed the world forever. It was one of the firearms of choice during the American Civil War. Soldiers from both sides of the war saw this innovative piece of machinery and purchased them in droves to defend themselves. From there Smith & Wesson has constantly been growing and changing throughout history.
Today they’re known for producing rifles and pistols along with their famous revolvers. That history and decades upon decades of experience mean that Smith & Wesson is one of the most reliable and innovative brands manufacturing guns today.
Their reliability is rivaled probably only by Glock’s. In fact, they once exchanged legal blows over the Smith & Wesson Sigma series. This is a line of recoil-operated semi-auto pistols that threatened Glock so much that a lawsuit and undisclosed settlement ensued.
3. Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc.
Founded a little while after World War II, Ruger made a name for themselves all around the world. Their .22 pistol is wielded by militaries and security operations. Ruger has been an American company for the entirety of it’s relatively short (in the history of gun manufacturers anyway) lifespan.
They got their start shortly after Bill Ruger got his hands on the Japanese Nambu pistol from a Marine returning from war. Their first semi-auto handgun combined the looks of the German 9mm Luger and the American Colt Woodsman, and people loved it so much that it gave them the capital to get an entire company rolling.
That momentum has translated into their well-known high-quality revolvers like the GP100 and the Redhawk line. They also have a vice grip on the world of semi-automatic pistols with their Ruger MKII and Ruger MKIII which both trace their lineage right back to that melting pot of a gun that started it all.
4. Sig Sauer
If you take a trip back to 1853 you’ll find a modest industrial plant hammering together wagons and railcars for trains. In the future, they’ll see a Swiss army in need. They repositioned their manufacturing plant and started producing top of the line rifles to sell to the Swiss army. This move began the life of one of the top gun manufacturers in the world.
Now that they’ve moved away from their humble train car beginnings Sig Sauer has become a worldwide powerhouse in the realm of firearms. They make beautiful reliable handguns like the Sig Sauer P226 Elite Platinum and the Sig Sauer 1911 Super Target. That’s the kind of multifaceted craftsmanship you can expect from the ex wagon builders.
They’ve also expanded beyond just producing some of the best guns on the market. Sig Sauer scopes, ammo, and air guns are also some of the best accessories out there. Their air guns are designed to mimic their pistols as much as possible, from the weight and aesthetics down to the trigger pull. They’re great for training young aspiring gun owners, and adults alike, reducing the differences between air gun and the real deal as much as possible.
In the 1980s the United States Army carried what they called the M9 as their primary sidearm. That military issue pistol was developed and manufactured by Beretta. This Italian company is one of the oldest gun manufacturers on the entire planet. Beretta started by working iron, and to this day, you could argue that they kept the spirit of ironwork alive.
Providing the M9 to the military during the 80s isn’t their first foray into the world of war. Beretta is responsible for one of the first submachine guns in the world, they provided pistols to their home military, and for a short time under duress after they manufactured weapons for Germany during World War II
Beretta is known best for producing a wide array of firearms. Their side-by-side, over-and-under and semi-automatic shotguns, alone would be enough to put them on the map, but they keep pushing. They also manufacture express, assault, and hunting rifles, single and double-action revolvers, and semi-automatic pistols. They’re truly the masters of their industry.
6. Savage Arms
This American gun manufacturer is the child of the explorer and inventor, Arthur Savage. He’s most famous for the Savage Model 99 lever-action rifle, and if you’re up on your gun history, then you’re probably not learning anything new with that little tidbit. If you really want to impress your friends at a dinner party, try throwing in the fact that he also patented radial tires.
The history of Savage Arms is extensive. He and his son were experimenting with guns and pushing the technology for years. They moved the magazine in the lever-action rifle from underneath the barrel and into the stock and other tinker attempts. Eventually, the Model 99 came along and wowed big game hunters for years. The hammerless design and rotary magazine were like nothing seen before, and it only grew better with age with little improvements like a removable magazine.
Savage Arms was a subsidiary of Vista Outdoor until it spun off into its own thing in 2019. This manufacturer has a long and proud history of innovation, quality, and backing the British military in World War II.
Mossberg is an innovative American-made manufacturer operating out of Eagle Pass, Texas. They’re known not just for the Mossberg Plinkster, the Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun, or the Mossberg 464. They also manufacture incredible scopes and other accessories. This immigrant-founded American brand encompasses the American dream.
Oscar Frederick Mossberg was born in Sweden, but moved to America and began making his life in Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He spent his time there learning everything he could while supervising the production of revolvers and shotguns. He even contributed his own design patents like the strap latching on the Iver Johnson safety revolver. Suffice it to say that when Oscar Mossberg eventually took to making guns with his sons in a barn behind his house, he knew what he was doing.
They would move north late in Mossberg’s life and start their own gun manufactury. They would work out of a small loft in New Haven. During that time, they developed the now well-known Brownie. That simple four-shot pocket pistol would save many a hunter from losing out on a good shot, and set the Mossberg family on their way. Without the Brownie, you don’t get the pump-action of the Mossberg we love so much or the thrill of shooting that little Mossberg Plinkster.
8. Springfield Armory, Inc.
Springfield Amory is a four-time American Rifleman’s Golden Bullseye Award winner. If you want something that’s going to last you a long time, fire straight and true, and is thrilling to use at the range, then you’ll love what Springfield Armory has to offer.
Bob Reese essentially brought Springfield Armory back from the dead, and we should all be grateful for his efforts. Springfield Armory was originally the name of the center of manufacture in the United States from 1777 to 1968. After being closed for a few years, Elmer C. Ballance his own company, LH Manufacturing, and took on the name of Springfield after becoming the first civilian manufacturer of the M14 rifle. Eventually, the company changed hands to Bob Reese and the craftsmanship and dependability of the founders made their way to the modern-day.
This manufacturer is the centerpiece of many a defense and movie budget. If you’ve ever seen a gun in a movie that made you think “dang, I’d love to add that to my collection” you were probably looking at a Springfield. The M1911 is a beautiful piece that any gun owner would be proud to hold, and that’s just the kind of work Springfield does year after year.
9. Heckler and Koch
For a short time after World War II, this German company shuffled hands until it settled itself and started making machine tools, parts for bikes and sewing machines along with a miscellany of precision parts. Eventually, the call for a new infantry rifle went out across Germany. Heckler and Koch rose to the occasion by pitching the G3 battle rifle. Through this proposal, they became the standard battle rifle of the German Federal Army. As you can imagine, this meant great things for them.
Today Heckler and Koch have branched out a little from manufacturing simply military gear. Now they’re making sports and hunting firearms as well. They’ve been handed contract after contract for military firearms, keeping them flush with patents and allowing them the room to diversify and improve for decades.
Their guns have only gotten better and better as time has gone on. Talking firearms will never be complete if you don’t throw Heckler and Koch in the ring.
10. Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Operating out of New Haven, Connecticut we have Winchester Repeating Arms Company, better known as Winchester. Winchester is where you go when you want a good solid rifle. It’s no surprise that Winchester comes to mind whenever rifles come up.
Their rifles and shotguns are some of the best in the game. If you’re ever at a loss for where to grab your next rifle, try getting one from the pros. They share a lot of blood with the excellent Smith and Wesson. In fact, Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson were responsible for obtaining Lewis Jenning’s improved version of the “Volition Repeating Rifle” and it’s wild sounding “Rocket Ball” ammunition.
After Smith and Wesson departed from what would eventually become Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and after a lot of tinkering, we get the more modern and more powerful rimfire .44 Henry round. He kept his nose to the grindstone and showed Smith and Wesson that he too could play this firearms game.
About fifty years ago they pioneered the popular choke tubes for shotguns, and today they produce some of the best ammo and riles on the market.
No single brand can really cover every single possible base, but Glock comes pretty dang close. For beginners, Glocks are something simple that will get the job done without too much fuss. They’re reliable and simple, allowing room to grow into the hobby and creating pros out of novices. For folks more familiar with a firearm, Glock manufactures guns that are simple to disassemble, reassemble, customize, and clean.
Their parts are generally interchangeable and affordable removing one of the higher hurdles of gun ownership and amateur gunsmithy. For folks that know their way around a gun, Glocks are something for them to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of their firearms. A lot of manufacturers want you to believe you need all of the newest tech and several interlocking moving parts, but Glock sets out to prove that wrong time and again.
Whatever you’re looking for, you might find a new appreciation for it by coming back to the basics provided by Glock’s handguns. Taking apart something as simple as this will make appreciating your automatic rifles that much more satisfying.
Bonus tip: While you're at it, check out this informational video on the 10 reasons why you should be a gun owner!